Mexico agrees to deport migrants after El Paso reaches 'breaking point'
By Uriel J. García, The Texas Tribune
A migrant attempts to cross the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Thursday. Photo by Adam Davis/EPA-EFE
Sept. 26 (UPI) --
Mexico will deport certain migrants from some of its northern border cities as part of an agreement with U.S. immigration officials who have reported a sharp increase of migrants attempting to cross the border in recent weeks, according to Mexico's immigration enforcement authority.
Mexico's National Migration Institute said it wants to "depressurize" the border cities of Ciudad Juárez, Piedras Negras, Tijuana and the northern state of Tamaulipas, where large numbers of migrants have recently crossed the border and where U.S. Border Patrol agents have arrested thousands of them.
The institute didn't say when the deportations will begin or how long they will last, adding that it will first negotiate with Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia and Cuba to make sure those countries will receive its citizens.
"It should be noted that CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] representatives offered the Mexican authorities all technical assistance to address the immigration issue at airports or other inspection points such as trains to reduce the numbers of people who use these mobility routes," the institute said in a statement.
The statement also said Mexican immigration officials will take into custody migrants who have been expelled by the United States at an international bridge connecting El Paso and Juárez.
The agreement was announced after Mexican and American officials met in Juárez on Friday. Officials with Ferromex, Mexico's largest rail operator, were part of the meeting; hundreds of migrants have arrived at the border after hopping aboard freight cars.
"We are continuing to work closely with our partners in Mexico to increase security and address irregular migration along our shared border," said CBP acting Commissioner Troy A. Miller, who attended the meeting. "The United States and Mexico remain committed to stemming the flow of irregular migration driven by unscrupulous smugglers, while maintaining access to lawful pathways."
The move comes as Eagle Pass and El Paso have scrambled to find shelter for recently arrived migrants, or help them get transportation out of the border cities, after they have been processed and released by immigration officials.
CBP said in a statement last week that it "swiftly vetted and processed approximately 2,500 individuals into custody and cleared the area" under one of the Eagle Pass' international bridges on Thursday. Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas Jr. told CNN that on Friday, immigration agents apprehended between 800 and 1,000 migrants in Eagle Pass.
In August, federal agents encountered an average of 957 migrants each day in the Del Rio sector, which includes Eagle Pass, according to government data.
In El Paso, more than 2,000 migrants have arrived each day, Mayor Oscar Leeser said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon. That's nearly double the 1,073 daily encounters that the El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico, recorded in August, according to government data.
The city has come to "a breaking point," Leeser said. "We're preparing for the unknown."
On Saturday, the city opened an overflow shelter at the Nations Tobin Recreation Center, which can hold 400 individuals, Deputy City Manager Mario D'Agostino said at the news conference.
Last week, the El Paso Independent School District's board agreed to sell a vacant middle school building to the city for $3.8 million for use as an overflow shelter. The city council will vote on the purchase on Monday.
Officials for three shelters in downtown El Paso said the facilities are at capacity and have had to turn away single men in order to shelter women and children first. The shelters can house up to 450 people.
Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens said the large number of migrants who arrived in Eagle Pass last week was a tactic by organized crime to draw immigration agents' focus to that region to make it easier to smuggle drugs elsewhere on the border.
"I believe it's a money-making opportunity for those smugglers," he said during an interview with ABC News on Good Morning America.
In the months after the emergency health order known as Title 42, which immigration officials used to turn away many migrants at the border, expired on May 11, the number of migrant apprehensions dropped significantly. But in the past few weeks, the number has skyrocketed.
According to CBS News, which cited unpublished federal government data, immigration officials on average made 6,900 apprehensions per day along the southern border in the first 20 days of September -- a 60% increase from the daily average in July.
Many of the migrants are from Venezuela who are fleeing the country to escape an authoritarian government, death threats from organized crime and a collapsed economy.
Last week, the Biden administration announced it will allow Venezuelans who entered the United States on or before July 31 to receive temporary protected status, a program Congress approved in 1990 that allows undocumented people to get a work permit and defer deportation for 18 months.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.